Friday 9 July 2021

Hoping in Hopwas

 Coming home?

At the risk of sounding like a retail featherweight, we have decided to take a very half hearted approach to trading this weekend. The last month has been frantic in terms of preserve sales, and we are now so far ahead of our planned sales plan it seems likely that our stock will run out long before the end of summer!

But thats not the reason for taking our foot off the proverbial gas. For the last few weeks we have been following the fortunes of the England football team in the much delayed 2020 European Cup and for once it has been a positive and uplifting experience. This weekend is the European cup final at Wembley with England taking on Italy and maybe, just maybe, the possibility of a major international title - the first since 1966.

In spite of my youthful countenance I was alive (aged five) when England won the World Cup but I have absolutely no recollection of the event. That said, I have clear memories of our subsequent exit from Mexico and that very much set the tone for the subsequent 50 years. Disappointment, frustration and heartbreak.
So we find ourselves hoping in Hopwas - hoping for a win, hoping for that elusive international title. 
Thats a very long way of saying we are taking Sunday off, a day to spend with family in preparation for what will inevitably be a nail biting couple of hours in front of the telly.
In the meantime its time for those football ear-worms - Three Lions interspersed with Sweet Caroline jostling for space in the penalty box of my brain.

Monday 28 June 2021

Sent to Covetry

Sent to Coventry

June 2021

Being sent to Coventry generally refers to being shunned, banished or at least not spoken to, so you would think that our time in Coventry Canal Basin as part of the RCTA Floating Market would be a subdued and quiet sort of affair.

The portents for this event were, fo be fair, not good. The floating market was supposed to be the sideshow to one of the City of Culture's main events - with the central area of the basin occupied by a musical stage hosting an array of local performers by day, and then an open air cinema by night. Sadly, the reopening after the pandemic was delayed and the main attractions were cancelled, leaving the Floating Market as a stand alone attraction. 

The canal traders decided to make the best of it and carry on regardless. We shook the dust out of our gazebo, which has lain unused for nearly two years, and set the stall up in full "festival" mode - less the tasters and ranks of jars on the stall. 
So, with a toned down offering we opened for business, huddling behind a makeshift windbreaker and wrapped up against an unseasonal cold snap. 

Now, this is where you expect to read of a dismal weekends trading, but no! As it turned out we were besieged, albeit in a very civilised, well organised and Covid safe manner. In please of the usual scrum around the tasters, family groups waited in ordered turns to approach and buy, having taken plenty of time to read the display boards and make their selections. The card reader took an unprecedented pounding and the till box bulged against the pressure of the notes - and the stock levels dwindled at an alarming rate. 

I get the feeling that people are desperate for a bit of normality, and as  we were the only show in town, we reaped the benefit. Every trader had a stonking weekend but for us, we sold four times as much as we anticipated , exceeding our previous weekend best by a country mile. After the Saturday the floorboards were lifted to gain access to the reserve stock in the hold, and by the time Sunday drew to a close there were just a handful of jars left.

So that leaves us with a quandry. We are now weeks and weeks ahead of where we expected to be sales wise, and our stock levels made last winter are finite. I guess we will have to go home and review what is in the store room and work our what we do next. Watch this space.

Saturday 29 May 2021

A flurry of activity

 A flurry of activity

May 2021

There is nothing like getting out on the water to inspire a blog post or two - in fact their immediacy makes a refreshing change from the Canal Hunter Vlog which is, by any standard, a slow process.

In the absence of larger canal-side gatherings during the early summer, we are out and about travelling from village to village and doing a spot of towpath trading. We move maybe 10 miles a week and playing tag with the car and bike - not quite canal life as we usually live it, but its great to be afloat again.

After joining the BCN Campaign Cruise to Walsall we emerged from the urban canals and are making a slow journey round to Coventry Basin where, we hope, there will be a City of Culture event at the end of June. Currently we have made it to Great Haywood and we will be staying here for the bank holiday weekend.

We have become quite familiar to the slower nature of towpath trading these last 12 months but the upside is that there is no full on rush to erect the stall, and instead its just a case of hanging the display boards out, assembling the bell - and waiting.

But those of you that know me will testify, I am not very good at sitting still. Especially so when there are jobs to be done around the boats. 

Before we even set off I made is most of the way through a long list of winter repair tasks which included repainting the bows of both boats, resealing one of the leaking portholes, repainting the shower room and the rather unpleasant task of painting the engine bay with bilge paint. I did plan to repaint the water tank but as any of you that have tackled this task will appreciate, it wans't hard to convince myself that it could "do another season".

However, its impossible to predict all those running snags which emerge, like the non functioning horn at our first blind junction (not that that matters a lot on the northern BCN!). This I could live with, but the sudden failure of our 15 year old Sterling Inverter meant no laptops - and that was rather restrictive. So, as we had the car with us, we made a detour to Willington and purchased a new 800W Victron Inverter (the blue one)  and a new horn.

I am always a little nervous about buying replacement electronics for fear that they are actually ok and its the power circuit which has failed, and I am slowly coming to the realisation that a multi meter would be a good idea, even though I don't really know how to use one... That said, I had a visual inspection of the wiring and the fuses and all seemed ok so I wired in the new units and was rewarded with a steady stream of 240 volts from one and a loud "baaaaarp" from the other, so all ended well.

But that still left me at a loose end at Great Haywood so I pitched headlong into a couple of long standing rust issues, the first being the front roof vent which is both rusting and leaking and the second being the base of what was the diesel tank in the very back of the butty. The residue of diesel has protected it for a few years but some winters of stagnant water was taking its toll, so both were prepped and then attacked with a liberal coat of Fertan.

Oh, then there was the small gas leak to track down which was both potentially serious but actually very easy to remedy.

So after all that activity a blog post and a cup of coffee seemed in order.

Wednesday 24 February 2021

The Delph Locks

 The Delph Locks

The Delph Locks, or Black Delph to give them their correct name formed a core element in the construction of the Dudley Canal which was, in effect, the continuation of the Stourbridge Canal to serve the area around Blowers Green and Parkhead.

The flight of eight locks you see today is a second version with the originals looping round to the south. The top and bottom lock chambers were retained the the intervening six new locks arranged in a straight line down the hill.

This rebuild always causes some confusion because the old flight comprised nine locks, and indeed the bridge at the top is still called nine locks bridge. 

Strictly speaking these posts are all about recording the lost canals, but the serried ranks of chambers with their adjacent weirs are suck an evocative landmark I cant help but include some old photos of the scene.

If you have a look in the undergrowth you can still find some remains of the original flight of locks, the chambers tipping this way and that as they have settled into the mine workings beneath. Its worth pointing out that the settlement didn't stop with the destruction of the old flight. Even its replacement has been plagued by subsidence as evidenced by the number of steps visible at the foot of the locks. There is a full compliment as the bottom and after losing more and more on the way up, they all but vanish at the top. One has to assume that the walls of the top chambers go down at least another 10 feet below the lock base.

The bottom "new lock" with steps

The top "new lock" without steps
Early 60's

The old locks uncovered in 1983

Monday 1 February 2021

BCN Cottages - New and Old Main Lines

BCN Cottages - New and Old Main Lines

 BCN Cottages 23 and 24

 Still standing at Rough Hills Stop, south of Wolverhampton

1970's photo by Hugh Potter

No 28 at Rotton Park

Probably at Rotton Park

Sunday 31 January 2021

BCN Cottages - Wyrley and Essington Canal

BCN Cottages - Wyrley and Essington Canal 

Ogley Locks Section (Lichfield Canal)

Known cottage locations

Cottage 267
No known photo but shown on map at Lock 23:

BCN Cottage 30

Located at Huddlesford

Photos by Arthur Watts from the CRT archive

BCN Cottage 269

Contemporary photo located at Muckley Corner on the A5

BCN Cottages 271 and 272 (the highest numbers)

Located at the top of the Ogley Locks

Now owned by the LHCRT in preparation for the restoration of the canal.

BCN Cottage 204

Sneyd Junction

Ice breaker at Sneyd with 204 on top left

BCN Cottage 210

Located at Coalpool

Photo by Hugh Potter 1971

BCN Cottage 265

Located next toLock 24 on the Ogley Locks section.

Photo by Hugh Potter

BCN Cottages - Birmingham and Fazeley

 BCN Cottages on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal

Cottages on Fleet Street, Farmers Bridge (numbers unknown)

Otherwise known as "Envelope Cottage"as it was used to store stationery

Photo by Hugh Potter

Cottage 251

Located at Curdworth Top Lock

Photo by Hugh Potter in 1973

Cottages 252 and 253

Located at the top of the Curdworth Flight

Photo by Brian Holmes

Photo by Hugh Potter

Cottage 254

Located at Dunton on the Curdworth Flight

Photo by Hugh Potter 1971

Photo by Hugh Potter December 1976

Cottages 255 and 256

Located on the Curdworth Flight

Photo by Hugh Potter July 1971

Cottages 257 and 258

Located at the bottom end of the Curdworth flight

Photo by Hugh Potter July 1971

Cottages 259 and 260 

Located at the bottom of the Curdworth flight of locks

Photo by Hugh Potter December 1975

             Photo by Hugh Potter December 1975

Cottages on the A5 Fazeley (numbers not known)

Photo by Hugh Potter 1975

Junction House, Fazeley

Photo by Hugh Potter